Don’t be afraid to open the closet door

Technology, Entertainment, Design. In short, “TED.”
I’ve been a fan of TED for years. In fact, some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned have been from TED, a global platform of speakers who share their ideas–be they funny, courageous, ingenious, inspiring, or informative–in talks of 18 minutes or less.
There are more than 1,700 such talks, in 100 different languages, available to us online at
Ash Beckham, an equality advocate and a tremendous spirit, is a respected TED speaker. She became a viral sensation when she did a TED talk for nine minutes and 22 seconds about empathy and openness, and about how “everyone at some point in their life has experienced hardship.”
We all have had hardships, and we all have closets where we keep those hardships that we don’t want to talk about.
Beckham believes that all a closet is is a hard conversation. And that being in and coming out of the closet is universal and scary and we hate it, and yet we need to do it anyway.
“Your closet might be telling someone you love her for the first time, or telling someone that you’re pregnant, or telling someone you have cancer, or any of the other hard conversations we have throughout our lives,” says Beckham.
We all have a closet of hard talks we’d like to have with our bosses, our children, our partners, and our friends–and a myriad of reasons why we think we cannot open the door. So we live looking through a keyhole, and some of those hard conversations never get out and we never get free.
I listened to that speech three or four times in a row and I was struck by how much it spoke to me about my own “hard conversation” closets. And how many times in my life I’ve hesitated to let them out and, in the process, been torn up inside for my keeping quiet.
I’m a huge advocate of speaking one’s truth and yet I still struggle to follow through because of a host of self-imposed fears in my closet. You name the excuse, I’ve probably used it.
Beckham also reminded me about the importance of my listening to and respecting others who decide to share a hard conversation with me. And I have no right to judge what I think a hard conversation is not, nor to critique the one who just shared what they think was the hardest thing.
A father I know had to tell his young daughter that her dog soon was going to die of cancer. When my kids were little, I had to tell them their dad and I were getting a divorce.
An old man had to admit he no longer could operate a car and had to give up his driver’s licence. My aunt, some 50 years after the birth of a son, finally told her family she had had him and given him up for adoption, and that they had just reunited.
Beckham is right. There is no harder, there’s just hard.
Maya Angelou says we are more alike than we are unalike. I believe that, too.
Open your closet door and have those hard conversations. To thine own self be true–and free.